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Mario Giacomelli

1925 - 2000
Senigallia, Italy

0 Works exhibited on Kooness

Works by Mario Giacomelli

Mario Giacomelli (1 August 1925 – 25 November 2000) was an Italian photographer and photojournalist in the genre of humanism.

Giacomelli was born in the sea-port town of Senigallia in the Marche region of Italy into a family of modest means. Only nine when his father died, at 13, the boy left high school to work as a typesetter and spent his weekends painting and writing poetry. After the horrors of World War II, from 1953 he turned to the more immediate medium of photography and joined the Misa Group, formed that year. After pre-war years dominated by a Pictorialist aesthetic promoted by the Fascist government, these artists enjoyed experimenting with form. 

He wandered the streets and fields of post-war Italy, inspired by the gritty Neo-Realist films of Vittorio De Sica and Roberto Rossellini, and influenced by the renowned Italian photographer Giuseppe Cavalli, founder of Misa, and developing a style characterized by radical compositions, bold cropping and stark contrasts. In 1955 he was discovered in Italy by Paolo Monti, and beginning in 1963, became known in the outside Italy through John Szarkowski of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Giacomelli's technique is distinctive. After beginning with the popular and robust Comet 127 film-format viewfinder camera, made in Italy by CMF Bencini from 1948 into the 1950s, in 1954 he bought a second-hand Kobell, a larger coupled rangefinder camera for 6x9 plates and film, one of only about 400 made by Boniforti and Ballerio in Milan from about 1952, and modified it himself. He was unafraid of exploiting the double-exposure capability of its Compur shutter, as well as soft focus, camera movement and slow shutter speeds.

His images are high-contrast, quite unlike the modulated full tonal range of his mentor Cavalli, and are the result of using electronic flash, from overdevelopment of his film and compensatory heavy printing so that nearly-black forms 'float' against a white ground. In accounting for these choices he referred to his printing-industry and graphic arts training; "For me the photographic film is like a printing plate, a lithograph, where images and emotions become stratified." After 1986, especially in his 1992-3 series Il pittore Bastari ('The painter Bastari') he artificially included consciously symbolic cardboard masks and toy dogs.


Castello di Rivoli, Turin.
Brooklyn Museum, New York City.
Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Art Institute of Chicago.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA.
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris.
Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Pushkin Museum, Moscow.
Centro Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione at the University of Palma.
George Eastman Museum, Rochester, New York.

Ida Gianelli and Antonella Russo, Mario Giacomelli, Castello di Rivoli, Turin, 1992.
Enzo Carli, Mario Giacomelli: The Inner form. Photographs 1952-1995, Charta Books, Milan, 1996.
Renzo Frontoni. Obiettivo Scanno: Cartier-Bresson, Giacomelli, Monti, Router, Berengo Gardin, Bucce e altri. Riccardo Tanturri, ed. Venice Marsilio, 1997.
Ennery Taramelli, Mario Giacomelli, Nathan, Paris, 1998.
Germano Celant, Mario Giacomelli, Photology, Milan, 2001.
Sandro Genovali, Mario Giacomelli: Evoking Shadow, Charta Books, Milan, 2002.
Giacinto Di Pietrantonio, Riccardo Lisi, Antonio Ria, Michele Robecchi, Marco Tagliafierro, Born in a Ditch: Enzo Cucchi and Mario Giacomelli, ELR, Losone, 2003.
Alistair Crawford, Mario Giacomelli, Phaidon Press, London, 2006.
Roberto Maggiori, Enzo Cucchi & Bruno Giacomelli: Cose Mai Viste, Photology, Milan, 2006.
Simona Guerra, Mario Giacomelli. My Whole Life, Bruno Mondadori, Milan 2008.
Alistair Crawford, The Black Is Waiting for the White: Mario Giacomelli Photographs, Contrasto, Milan, 2009.
Katiuscia Biondi, Mario Giacomelli. Sotto la pelle del reale, 24Ore Cultura, Milan, 2011.
Katiuscia Biondi, Mario Giacomelli. Je ne fais pas le photographe, je ne sais pas le faire, Contrejour, Biarritz, France, 2016.